It’s that time of year when newly sharpened No. 2 pencil shavings permeate the air.
Ah, the smell of beginnings, the hope of enlightenment and the dread knowing your children’s alarm clocks will be ringing out three to six hours earlier than over the summer.
With only a few days left to rush from store to store, you grab the last of the forgotten school supplies, double check your kids’ immunization records, purchase the “in” shoes your child has to have for Day One, and a vat of Clearasil and cover-up sticks in various shades of skin tones for picture day. Your children are primed for what’s unanimously referred to as the worst time in a human’s life — middle school.
When I was in middle school … wait, there wasn’t middle school that many centuries ago. It was called junior high, and from what I recall, we survived it. At least that’s what we tell our kids. This faux confidence partially shields them from what they’re walking into, of course wearing the appropriate footwear.
Despite the hormones, nerves, acne, angst, combined with regularly changing body parts, parents agonize in the background while watching their middle-schooler navigate through the social maze of life.
This year I’ll have both my girls in middle school. Fifty percent of them are excited. The other daughter, not so much. In the last few weeks, leading up to school starting, anxiety and feelings of self-doubt are only too familiar. I’m sure it has been the same for generations.
But when I was their age, my parents didn’t have to take out a bank loan to get through public school. When did it get so expensive? I think my mom was required to buy some No. 2 pencils, a jar of glue that tasted like peppermint, and the required, yet offensive, red Big Chief writing tablet.
Now I have a two-page list of school supplies that would make most parents’ brains implode. Here’s the stinger: You MUST purchase the exact supplies and brands or, rumor has it, they will sell you to the highest bidder at the spring auction, or worse force you to be PTO president! Let’s just say, I bought supplies directly from the school, the pre-bundled pack, which for both girls only set us back one semester tuition at junior college.
Speaking of scams, it’s time for my annual rant about locker decorations. Once again, when I was a youngling, I used generic-brand scotch tape and weak magnets to barely hold up grainy photos I cut out of Teen Beat magazine. If you had a mirror in your locker, you were a “richie.”
A well-off teen with a closet full of Izod shirts with starched, upright collars, Jordache jeans with a slim, spring-like gold belt, and at least one pair of light blue Adidas tennis shoes with the white stripes, which were so popular, the first week I owned a pair, they were stolen at the roller rink. Talk about PTSD.
Now kids are supposed to decorate their lockers before school is in session. Take a look at all the companies who specialize in this trend. It’s ridiculous! I can understand wanting to make your space feel like you, by adding a splash of color or funny magnets, but what scam artist came up with the idea to put up wallpaper, fuzzy carpeting, and battery-packed chandeliers and teensy disco balls? Half the lockers look like a pack of pastel fairies barfed out the kids’ interior decor.
The best thing in middle school is it’s really a blink of an eye in terms of one’s life span. Only the traumatic events are remembered by the time they reach adulthood. I guess the key is to keep those incidents to a minimum — or forget about all the school craziness and join the circus. Think of all the money you could save!